Evidence-based interventional pain management: principles, problems, potential and applications

Laxmaiah Manchikanti, Mark V Boswell, James Giordano
Pain Physician 2007, 10 (2): 329-56

BACKGROUND: The past decade has been marked by unprecedented interest in evidence-based medicine (EBM) and a focus upon the use of innovative methods and protocols to provide valid and reliable information for and about healthcare. Thus (it is at least purported that), healthcare decisions are increasingly being based upon research-derived evidence, rather than on expert opinion or clinical experience alone. But this quest for evidence to support clinical practice also compels the question of whether the methods employed to acquire information, the ranking of information that is acquired, and the prudent use of this information are sound enough to actually sustain the validity of an evidence-based paradigm in practice. Moreover, it is becoming apparent that the scope, depth, and applicability of available evidence to effectively and ethically guide the myriad of situational decisions in clinical practice is not uniform across all medical fields or disciplines. In particular, comprehensive evidence synthesis or complete guidelines for clinical decision-making in interventional pain management remain relatively scarce. EBM is defined as the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of the current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. Thus, the practice of EBM requires the integration of individual clinical expertise with the best available external evidence from systematic research. To arrive at evidence-based medical decisions all valid and relevant evidence should be considered alongside randomized controlled trials, patient preferences, and resources.

OBJECTIVE: To describe principles of EBM, and the methods and relative utility of evidence synthesis in interventional pain management.

DESCRIPTION: This review provides 1) an understanding of evidence-based medicine, 2) an overview of issues related to evaluating the quality of individual studies, analyses, narrative, and systematic reviews, 3) discussion of factors affecting the strength and value(s) of evidence, 4) analysis of specific reviews of interventional techniques, and finally, 5) the utility and purpose of guidelines in interventional pain management.

CONCLUSION: Interpreting and understanding evidence synthesis, systematic reviews and other analytic literature is a difficult task. It is crucial for pain physicians to understand the goals, principles, and process(es) of EBM so as to meaningfully improve its application(s). This knowledge affords better insight into not only the analytic reviews in interventional pain management provided herein, but ultimately allows future information to be selected, evaluated, and used with prudence in technically competent, ethically sound medical practice.

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